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System Selling


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Selling to the system | Selling the system | See also


The sales process in many situations is seldom simple and often complex. This is because you may well be selling to a system, not a person, and also selling a system that solves a complex set of problems.

Definition: A system is set of individual elements, many of which can interact with each other and with external elements in complex ways.

Selling to the system

The company system

When you sell something to a company, you are not just selling it to the buyer: you are selling to the whole company, which is often made up of quasi-autonomous units, any of which may have different goals and problems and make conflicting demands on you. It is easy, for example, to get caught up in company politics where what is being proposed is nothing to do with real benefit for the greater company, its employees, customers or shareholders.

This happens also in the 'simple' retail sale, for example when selling a cooker. Here, the issues of who does the cooking, who likes what food, who pays and so on can quickly make this a complex sale.

Selling to the company

When selling to the company, the first task is thus to figure out the system. Thus you might:

  • Identify all stakeholders with a potential interest.
  • Understand the internal culture and political system.
  • Build relationships and alliances with key people.
  • Meet over a period of time to find the right solution and nudge the sale forward.
  • Agree a staged delivery and installation schedule.
  • After the sale, continue to meet ensure they gain value and to watch for future opportunities.

Selling the system

A solution system

When you sell, you do not sell a product. You do not even simply solve a simple problem. What is to be delivered may well be a complex

For example, the solution may include:

  • A range of different pieces of computer hardware and software, all of which must work together seamlessly (as well as with the the buyer's existing system).
  • A finance package to allow for easy payment.
  • Installation of the solution.
  • Training of users in how to use the solution (both front-end and back-end technical people).
  • Ongoing telephone support and call-out of engineers.

Building the solution system

Producing this system is no mean feat, which is why sales teams often have their own engineers and specialists who can understand the detail of customer needs and build custom solutions to match.

It is also not uncommon for custom solutions to be built offsite to be tested before they are repackaged and sent to the customer for final installation and test.

See also

Three Customer Types

Sales Books

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